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The MSU Extension office in Ravalli County is hosting a seminar about the benefits and methods of inter-seeding legumes into perennial grass pastures, March 6.

Legumes are great plant species to add into grass pasture communities, providing positive benefits in the quality of forage for livestock, soil nutrients, and by producing flowers for beneficial pollinators. Legumes really are a win-win-win for grazing livestock, soil health, farm economics, and environmental health.

Legumes are a family of plants that develop symbiotic relationships with bacteria in specialized nodules on their roots. The bacteria fix Nitrogen out of the atmosphere, where it is unavailable to plants, and make it available in the root zone, where plants can take it up. In return, leguminous plants feed the bacteria living in the nodule colonies on their roots. Nitrogen is a very important soil nutrient contributing to healthy plant growth.

There are many different types of legumes, some that we may already be familiar with: beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, clovers, and even peanuts are all legumes. But when it comes to introducing legumes into irrigated pastures, there are several perennial species that really suit the needs of the pasture situation, and provide multi-year benefits for the plant community. These perennial species of legumes include: alfalfa, sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, clovers, vetches, and cicer milkvetch.

In pasture environments legumes are highly nutritious forage plants for livestock to eat, and grow through the whole summer, even as our cool season Montana grasses slow their growth. The Nitrogen-fixing power of the bacteria provide valuable soil nutrients to both the legumes and to grass plants nearby, reducing the need for chemical fertilizer inputs. The addition of a flowering species to grassy areas support bees and other native pollinators, providing sites to forage pollen.

Two forage specialists will lead the discussion on March 6th. Dr. Emily Meccage will join us from Montana State University- Bozeman, where she serves as the MSU Extension Specialist for Forage Crops. She will be joined by Ben Montgomery, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist in Lake County, Montana. Both will be on hand to present information about the importance of legumes, discuss species selection and requirements, introduce seeding methods, and show results from a field trial in Lake County.

The legumes seminar will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, at the North County Public Library, 208 Main Street, Stevensville.

The seminar is free to all participants.

For further information about the seminar, contact the MSU Extension Office in Ravalli County: 406-375-6611. Or, email: